Diversifying our environmental movement: Healthy Environment portfolio awards $5.32 million in grants

A guiding principle for the Healthy Environment portfolio is to support work that transform the systems which create and sustain inequities and environmental degradation in our communities. This means changing the rules, relationships, roles and practices in institutions and systems — large and small — that shape culture, politics, the economy, how we manage natural resources and more.

As I consider the 55 grants totaling $5.32 million that we awarded this year through Meyer's Annual Funding Opportunity, I see a common vision woven throughout that seeks to undo the extractive, transactional and damaging relationships we have with the planet and each other to advance new and proven approaches at all levels — organizational, local, regional and state — that are based on values of justice, cooperation, ecological sustainability and equity.

The breadth of applicants and grantees this year reflects the continued scope of this portfolio: advancing solutions toward climate change and climate justice, land and forest conservation, clean air, watershed health and green workforce development. Awards include small technical assistance grants, particularly for organizational development work to deepen internal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, as well as support for larger projects and broader state policy efforts.

One of the new developments in this pool of awards is a robust collective of grants to Tribes and Native-led organizations that seek to elevate and integrate Indigenous knowledge and practices into conservation and environmental protection efforts across the state. Not only are we delighted to support these efforts, but we are excited to learn more about how traditional ecological knowledge of Indigenous communities and Western science can work together to support healthy natural systems and communities.

This collective of Tribe and Native-led projects includes:

  • $185,000 to The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to fund a natural lands conservation plan that integrates the Tribes' cultural and healthy traditions goals.
  • $176,037 to The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to support a program that will improve air quality and mitigate health impacts related to prescribed burning for wildfire management.
  • $249,850 to support a collaborative effort of five Tribal communities — The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Nez Perce Tribe — to study and assess the loss in Tribal natural resource services of importance to the governments and members of the Tribes as a result of contamination in Portland Harbor and to integrate this information into watershed and habitat restoration in the lower Willamette.
  • $50,000 to The Confederated Lower Chinook Tribes and Bands to purchase, protect and revitalize the Tribes' historically important Tansy Point treaty grounds.
  • $136,978 to the Nez Perce Tribe to support the integration of Tribal knowledge into Wallowa Lake management that will benefit Tribal members and Wallowa County communities.
  • $185,000 to Wisdom of the Elders to train Native American adults living in both urban areas and on reservations about Native plant nursery work and to help them develop agricultural careers and/or micro-enterprises using these new skills.

One aspect of the legacy of colonization is how it privileges the colonizer's viewpoint related to land, which is oriented around concepts of "ownership" and "private property," rather than an Indigenous perspective, which is oriented around the concept of a reciprocal relationship with the land. In short, colonization has destroyed, exploited and invisibilized Indigenous communities and their approach to environmentalism. A common example of this is the predominance of Western science information in environmental education versus an approach that also includes spiritual or cultural values and understanding of the environment. Another example is the commodification of plants by pharmaceutical companies based on Indigenous community knowledge and medicinal use of these plants.

The Tribe-led projects that we are funding this year disrupt this colonial legacy and integrate cultural and traditional ecological knowledge with Western science in their efforts to protect and restore ecosystems. They embody what we in Meyer's Healthy Environment portfolio are trying to achieve.

I'm pleased to celebrate our partnership with the grantees that I've highlighted here as well as the other organizations that we are honored to support this year. View a full list of Healthy Environment grantees here.

I look forward to entering 2019 in search of new opportunities for partnership and to build on our portfolio's growing body of environmental justice and conservation work that aims to benefit communities experiencing disparities in Oregon and change the institutions and systems that perpetuate inequities.